August 7, 2011
The Agony of the Ecstasy, Maynard on Maynard
Photo-300/3 A 2001-2002: Foundation in Photographic Vision - Theory & Practice II
David G. Menard
January 22, 2002
Assignment: Photo-300 Fall/Winter Term Project Proposal
a) develop a framework of relevancy and reasoning for a coherent thematic concept for a black & white photography project for the academic year 2001-2002;
b) offer an alternative semester breakdown for this developing work in progress, as a fall 2001 term project and a winter 2002 culminal portfolio, and c) explain why such a project would link the artist, in a personal way, to its emotional and intellectual dimensions.
My goal in pursuing photography is to sharpen inherent visual potentials and bring them to bear into the domain of film. Accordingly, I have embarked on a long-term pursuit of a major in film, and at the present, supported by a minor in photography. Film studies, as opposed to film production, is chosen as an alternative path to film, in order to solidify my firm foundation in the arts and sciences of the motion picture traditions, because I believe, before you can produce a film you need to learn how to write film, both critically and aesthetically. Photography must permeate my film experience at all times during my academia, because after all, film’s essential nature is the motion of the mind linked to the brushstroke of light.
I have crossed paths with two areas of interest during this fall semester, one dealing with the photography of Lee Garmes in the films of Josef von Sternberg’s series with Dietrich, and a fantastical “photo novel,” directed and photographed by Chris Marker, entitled La Jetee (1962). Sternberg’s film style and mise-en-scene combined with Marker’s achievements in experimental photo-montage form the long term, driving force behind my photo-300 projects and portfolio. For example, Lee Garmes’ use of the technique of “north lighting,” in his photography of Marlene Dietrich in Sternberg’s Shanghai Express (1932), is quite remarkable in terms of its sophistication and method, impressing magnificent chiaroscuros on the eye and subtle emotional nuances to the viewer. The combination of Garmes’ photographic techniques and Chris Marker’s usage of successive sequences of still photographs, to tell a futuristic story of the last eerie reality, suffused with similar high contrast, diffused black-and-white images, makes these two photographic ideas compatible with the development of my own vision of a diegetic “photo-essay.”
In the fall of 2001, I proceeded in setting up an interior studio with black cloth backgrounds, gray middle grounds, and white foregrounds, in an attempt to create layers of depth (both in space and tonal spectrality) within a 3m by 3m space. The first goal was to create composition in depth, and then to resist the depth by veiling the dead space with translucent cloth and filling it up with cluttered objects. The second goal was more difficult and involved the subtle manipulation of the light, in achieving the “northern lighting” effect.
Overall, my spearhead of mise-en-scene is to create an illusional world where the process of unveiling can be countered by an act of masking, covering and hiding the facial and body features, a technique well developed by Josef von Sternberg. And through a mimetic crack, a splitting of the mask, the face of the world can be made to permeate through the “unspeakable,” as a visionary light form of an imaginative tale of the prophetic events of a possible unfolding history.
Lastly, I wanted to document the process of building the studio, trimmings of cloths and veils, with all its trivial clutter, and photograph in a self reflexive manner some preliminary activities dealing with the purely constructed representation of the Dietrich persona, one of my alter egos, in order to setup a momentum and mood to my main push toward my “photo-essay” entitled The Agony of the Ecstasy. Moreover, a self reflexive look, at my attempt to create a purely out-of-mind, photographic world of illusion and allegory, sets the initial, establishing hook of my own personal story, including the feelings of loss, humiliation, anguish, alienation and self dissolution within an impermanent life in decline, a story that I am attempting to tell through a hypothetical condemnation of the human race in the present status quo of world affairs. Even if this prophetic diegesis cannot be properly presented as a sequence of photographs, documenting the process of thought and personalizing the attempt can be used successfully as my fall 2001-term project.
Zeno’s paradox is my estranged world, the persecutive delusion that decomposes me and the hysteria that condenses me. It is the paranoia that resides at the core of my alienation and alludes to a cultural malfunction of the religious and sexual rituals of our times, where the social sickness of the emotional life is also the spiritual malady of the soul - that una mallatia dei sentimenti.
An extension to the fall proposal has been written, entitled “Beyond a Proposal,” and an identification of the mechanism of the “photo that moves,” is set therein. The process of mind linkage is implied in this extended work, where the hybridization of photography and film achieves a “wand effect,” the simulacra of motion and the “trompe d’oeil” that mind-locks the viewer with the art.
The “Agony of the Ecstasy” localizes that abysmal pit - down there in the deep place where there ain’t a mortal human that I can tell but you. It is the “Road to Death Valley” and my personal mise-en-scene that foretells that awful desolation about the ways in which one acts or becomes, a being without existence suffused with a pervasive boredom with the “others” of a devastated landscape; a world where the pieces don’t properly fit together because those estranged bits are as alienated as I.
The story of the “Agony of the Ecstasy” is bound to the light of a thousand suns because the light is the anodyne for relief from cinematic alienation and overall universal estrangement. The beautiful light, that creates the photographs and moves on the screen, is the luminous flux that dreams are made of and the antitheton of alienation.
The beauty of the light is its allusion to the caress of human contact, the “metaphor of the touch,” and more importantly, it is its suicidal release of spirit from its material agony, the misery of its dreadful inheritance of the ecstasy.
The elegiacal melancholy of the “Agony of the Ecstasy” is nothing else but the folding over of my naked vision, distorting and abstracting my experience, and the realization that it is slowly killing me. Therein, the agonizing work becomes the apotheosis of an irreducible form of photography, the termite terrorism of metafilm, where my personal abstraction is expressed through a stylistic prerogative; culminating with the triggered grasp of the killer of self who lies fragmented, waiting for the light to assassinate the narrative.
In the end of it all, that is what lies beneath my private wasteland where meaning echoes from the meaninglessness of life; because I am the time traveler, the timeless storyteller, and Lao-tzu’s butterfly dream. I am the dreamer of the dream and when I wake, the nightmare is over and so am I.
THE AGONY OF THE ECSTASY: The last thoughts of the last man, on the last day, of the last war on earth.
This is my insanity and my elegy, a sad lamentation on love and death, the ecstasy of peace, and the agony of war. This is the last story ever told, a diegetic memento mori never to be memory.
July 16, 1945, 5:29:45 A.M. - Men burrowed into the sand like formican insects. Oppenheimer in that blinding instant thought of fragments from the Bhagavad-Gita:
If the radiance of a thousand suns
were to burst at once into the sky,
that would be like the splendor
of the Mighty One …
I am become Death,
The Shatterer of Worlds.
Let the mind imagine the last place on earth, the sole reprieve after the viral bacteroid attack of the intercontinental wars that brought an end to life on earth.
And for a time, only a few survived the pestilence of the black volcanic death, living in urban tunnels and mountain caves; but they too soon died from the rampant ubiquitous infection. Only one lonely, desperate man survived, living among the nuclear waste drums buried deep in the underground salt mines of Death Valley.
Ironically, the last human persisted through the plague on a subsistence of radioactive alkaline bacteria that destroyed the viral bacteremia, only to drive him into dysthymic madness, irreparably damaging his memory image by image and thought by thought, ultimately leading him into dissolution and suicide.
As the alkaline spice saved his life, it acted as an euphoric agent, sending his mind on a voyage through space and time; but the narcotic slowly destroyed the existence of his memories, and as the last thoughts reached their ecstasies, the agony of the battle of thought and being incarnated the mythomanias of dysthymic depression, the dementia praecox, and the erotomaniac Thanatos.
The Christ man was dying from lost of memory, lack of thought, in an Armageddonian retribution; only vague primitive forms now persisted, unformed, naked, translucent, leftovers from a dissolved past. A slow death on the rim of life, the agony and the ecstasy of the deepest thoughts remained - the apotheosis of love and death.
In his last gasp of Herculean clarity, the man thought the last thoughts: “Who am I?, what am I?, and what of the Other?, who are you?, what are you?, and why are you?; truly, am I your unconscious muse?”
Godward, his anthropopathy prophetized the abode of the Grail, as image fragments dissolved into feelings and matters of the heart. Intermittent spurts of emotion correlating with mind, but never existing, existence without substance, the hallowed logos that nobody can speak; and in the stare of the last look, in the near final moment of the last instance, nothing is for always the beauty of Tao.
Suddenly, Iesous Mahdi, his name is a demiman, awakens from the oneiros of reality, feeling that I am me, who writes the memento mori. As the gun lays on the flatness of this mirrored cylinder, radiating like the slither of lamia, I contemplate death, the forever Jesus who suffers me through the salty love of my fragmented soul.
I cannot bare this faith much longer, as my pain writes me, my agony is my fate. And as the last trace of humanity comes trickling out, my Grail fulfills its destiny; my Christ is the Nosferatu that kills me, my dreaded kaddish is the nosopoetic antihemoglobin that immortalizes me, and my elegiac torment is the agony of the ecstasy that creates me.
I realize the seal of my fate, the mine of eidetic collapse sees the glimpse of faith evaporating like the olden varnish of those barreled frescos, dissolution abides where the Death Valley crosses the unknown place.
Wagnerian symphonies play in my ear, as the leitmotif of the smoking gun dances to the melody of the requiem of my black mass. And as the bright twilight proceeds the dark fugue of amnesia, it pursues me as it did the burrowers of the Trinity sands. Suddenly, zero comes like a thousand flashes, the room is filled with dulling colors, transforming hearts between limbos of blacks and whites, only grays momentarily remain, torturous shades, the infected contingencies of life.
As I resist the syncope of my memory, no lyrics sing, no plays perform, no thoughts form, no one comes; just waiting for a comfort never felt, the touch, the fingers of a stretched out hand, like a kiss, that lonely nothingness longing for human contact, never coming, does not sustain me, and never did. In a last desperate effort, a bravura of fear overtakes me, and I write the last song of the story. Like the tathata of a photograph that pricks, that, there it is, lo!, but it is a no act play, like an unmade film, a set of images never to be, now only lonely echoes of past memories, calling me back to mine terra, the photographs seems to belong to those Other places, being the Other ones, the ones that came, and, now, long gone.
The machine seems to write for me now, as I dissolve away, the spacing seems uncertain, the last sentence doesn’t seem to fit, doesn’t want to get in line, it rebels on me, it cries out for freedom, back to the old West, it seeks a dark street, smoking, wet, damp, lurking in the crocked corner of my demented mind. So I relinquish my pursuit and leave it be, as it is, a vanishing memory, as it was, a loving thought, a peaceful moment, in the time before the black death; because, after all, and for always “I Remember Mama” - Bhang!
Postscript to "The Agony of the Ecstasy" by Physicist Filmmaker George David Maynard:
On Monday, August 6, 1945, at 8:15 AM, the Atomic Bomb "Little Boy" was dropped on Hiroshima Japan, with truly horrific and far reaching consequences. Yesterday, August 6, 2011, at least in Canadian Media Circles, hardly anything was mentioned about this more than tragic monumental event.
Instead what was broadcasted or appeared on the Web, were empty concerns from those apparently worried the Over-worldly Hegemonies about how much of the common people's wealth they've lost during the last week's 500+ points downturn, all across their respective stock trading marketplaces.
Granted, we all make money in a Capitalist System, the alternative have been tried; yet, when the Overlords can quench their thirst and appetite, as the Czars did not in a similar fashion over a century ago, God help us help ourselves, and the Little Ones, too.
The Agony of the Ecstasy is an artistic document made with poignant images and prophetic text. It is the truth as far as there can be such a thing can exist, for the Dual Angels sing loudly of their sorrow for the Little Ones. Maybe more so should they sing the utterances of the crying out of mankind, about their pitiful laments of foolish Big Ones, whom hover soullessly, heartlessly, meaninglessly over their homely nests, repossessed homes, and crumbling empires?
Oh, Angel of Mercy!, yell out with sounding pings your Cries for the Children of the Good Earth. Oh, Angel!, from the Heavens above, let All of Man know of his falsehood of parenthood, of his inverted dreams of Red-form Republican pursuits, not least, let Man know that We the People need Freedom to live, just as we need Land to plant our crops and Space to breath the clean air of the Good Lord's Mercy. Oh, Might Angel of Death!, don't let them send our kids to false wars that have been built up of false premises, twisted lies, and repeated bigotry of racial man.
Oh, my Guardian Angel!, brake their congressional ears with renderings of The People's Cries and speak to their decrepit hearts, worn-out from distrust and the lack of One's Word. If not from Heaven, then my Good Lord, call upon your Hell's Angels' Retribution to come and show you mean business with your Word of Wrath; else, send your Heaven's Angels' Goodwill to give us Grace and Blessing, to speak to us of True Love, Charity, and Compassion.
Personally, my Good Lord, we really need help, right now. So while we're waiting for the Coming Return, even Nietzsche's Eternal Return might be a great relief; let me help you by spinning up "A Tale of Three Brothers," within which my humble work, called "The Agony of the Ecstasy," prophetizes your Big Book's Story, only a little, mind you. Let I speak of the Devil's Dream to brake Man, your own creation. I will speak of the Eternal Returns and do so with your ear-cracking Tweeks, which voice their laments of an End Times.
George Maynard's "The Agony of the Ecstasy" is a piece of artwork that uncannily originated, right during the events of the 911-Disaster of the Airliners crashing into the Twin Towers, in the commercial district of downtown Manhattan, on September 11, 2001. George Maynard's short film (actually a "video-ed" photomontage/photoroman project) work is rightly prophetic, with good timing to booth. It was fully formed in the artist's mind and then completely represented, first with hundred of 35 mm photographs and finalized with motion picture techniques. All of this activity happened in the class of famous Canadian photographer, Raymonde April, PHOTO-300/2001-2 semestral session, at Concordia University's Old Fine Arts Building, on Rene Lesveque Bld., Montreal.
The Agony of the Ecstasy won the 2002 Olivieri Prize, for photography in motion with literary foundations, and it's power is a foreboding warning to all of mankind, that if you don't straighten up as a civilization, then, not a loving Mother, but a uncivilized and powerful Father Figure, proxy to Nature, will come and make The Balance of all of US, and I mean US. DGM.